The High Court in Lilongwe is expected to set a date to commence trial in the infamous Cementgate following transfer of the case from lower court on Friday.
Senior magistrate Shyreen Chirwa on Friday informed the suspects— former State House chief of staff Peter Mukhito, 57; former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner general Roza Mbilizi, 52; Norman Chisale, 45; security aide to former president Peter Mutharika and 26-year-old businessperson Mahmedshafee Chunara—that the case has been committed to the High Court.
The four are answering different fraud-related charges—ranging from money laundering, abuse of office, falsifying documents with intent to deceive, smuggling, aiding and abetting smuggling.
Chisale, Mbilizi and Mukhito are accused of abuse of authority of their offices by facilitating the duty-free importation of 800 000 bags of cement, which act was prejudicial to the rights of the Malawi government.
According to the charge sheet, between 2018 and 2019, the suspects lied that President Peter Mutharika imported 800 000 bags of cement, worth K1.5 billion, duty-free.
Chunara is also accused with importing into the country the 800 000 bags of cement without paying customs duty under the pretext they were duty-free goods for the personal use of Mutharika, thereby defrauding the government K1.5 billion.
He is also answering the charge of knowingly using falsified duty waivers so as to benefit under Customs Procedure Code (CPC) 418, being a CPC for clearance of goods for personal use by Mutharika, thereby evading payment of K1 566 753 577.00 in customs duty to the Government of Malawi.
In an interview after the proceedings, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni said considering the nature and complexity of the matter, it had to be tried at the High Court.
One of the defence lawyers, Powell Mkhutabasa, said he will wait to be served with the evidence from the State to prepare for the case.